By Gordon Corsetti, Skyland Trail adult programs graduate
It seems the holidays are annual events that conspire to derail any progress made against my depression. Shorter days mean I get less sunlight. Colder mornings mean it is that much more difficult to extricate myself from the warm sheets. Worst of all though, is the forced socialization that comes with holiday events.
Whether it’s personal or professional, I often find myself pinned between people bent on making small talk. It’s enough to make anyone scream, but for a depressive, like myself, all of these irritations dig at the foundation I built to overcome my depression. This assault on my wellbeing requires preparation, just as if a storm was bearing down on my home. It is time to reinforce all my weak areas and strengthen my secure spaces. I do this through a combination of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), leaning on my social support structures, and environmental adjustments.
- Bright light into my eyes as soon as possible. A sunrise lamp while I’m at home, and a portable UV light when I travel. If I can’t get natural sunlight, I use technology and get close.
- Effervescent shower soothing tablets are my favorite way to release tension in the morning, especially if I slept poorly, as I do not always have time for a full-soak bath.
Social Support Structures
- I reach out to at least one friend or close family member per day. That may be a text or a phone call, but I attempt to connect because I am not usually the one who connects. This is also an early warning device of a sort because if I really don’t feel like sending a message to someone I care about, then that may indicate that I’m tipping into a depressive spiral.
- My therapist is a quick text away from an appointment. Generally, I schedule appointments more frequently around the holidays because I tend to get into my own head in unhealthy ways. Having regular check-ins with a professional is another way I build indicators about how my depression may be acting. A professional may recognize symptoms that I don’t or that I’m denying.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
- Since I graduated Skyland Trail in February of 2020 I play a great deal more music because our group leader held Music Mondays. The group members would each play one minute of a song of their choice and our goal was to stay mindful. Whether as a distraction or to enhance an already positive experience, I use music to help my brain fall into patterns that aren’t entirely about over-thinking. I keep different depression playlists on my Spotify account; some folks have even been nice enough to make their own playlists public so all I needed to do was follow it!
- Wise Mind ACCEPTS. I’m a big fan of Activities. Instead of re-reading my favorite books, I listen to them as audiobooks. I found I get deeper into the story, learn things I completely missed in an earlier read, and I’m much calmer if I listen to a book going into what I know will be a stressful situation.
My most helpful overall strategy is to bookend events with time for myself. If I must make an appearance at an office holiday party, or attend a potluck then I try to make the day before and the day after all for me. I’ll steal a few hours for myself if I can’t get an entire day, but even then that time is enough for me to do some calming exercises, release tension, and take stock of how my mind feels. The holidays can be stressful. There are dozens of Hallmark movies covering every aspect of that cliché, but with a little time and effort, it is possible to secure your mind against the worst holiday stresses.
This post was penned by Gordon Corsetti. Gordon, a Skyland Trail graduate, is an author, public speaker, and advocate for suicide prevention and mental health awareness; writing regularly on his website mentallyagile.com. He collected various tools in the pursuit of his permanent recovery from depression and anxiety. Gordon writes about philosophy and different modes of thought that he experiments with to refine his perspective on life. He speaks to the uniquely human ability to change our minds and shows how to use tools to accomplish that change.